It’s difficult being a UK lawyer if you have the fear of redundancy hanging over your head. But all hope is not lost. For those willing to make the move, the Middle East can be a safe haven for your career – not to mention your bank balance.
And there are other benefits. One is that mid-level associates in the Middle East get a very broad work-load. It is common for a real estate lawyer, for example, to be involved in real estate, projects and general corporate/commercial transactions. Part of the reason is the offices are much smaller than in London or other major cities, and as a result there is much more overlap between practice areas which results in an incredible range of transactions.
Lawyers also get a solid grounding in down-to-earth client contact. Client contact is common and many Middle East clients despise technical legal jargon and just want practical legal advice that is commercially sound.
The career progression is also much more rapid than in the UK. Working in the Middle East has proven, on many occasions, to give someone a strong business case for partnership. For example, there have been several instances when a lawyer who is 6-7 year PQE is put up for partnership in the Middle East, when the UK average of 8-9 PQE. There have also been a few cases where mid-level lawyers around the 5 PQE level that moved from London to Dubai have won partnership after a mere 12-18 months.
Last but not least, are the financial incentives. Working in the Gulf will give you a tax-free salary, which on its own gives you a net gain of around 40 per cent. In Dubai you will get paid London salaries based on your PQE level. A mid-level lawyer at the 4-5 PQE level can expect to receive a salary of £80,000-£90,000 upwards, plus relocation costs and other benefits. And if you work for a US firm in Dubai, you can expect to receive around £110,000 at the 5 PQE level. If you are interested in working in Abu Dhabi or in Qatar, then some firms are now offering housing allowances on top of your salaries.
Without a doubt those feeling uncertain about their prospects in the UK should consider a move to the Middle East -it’s not just a good career move but is financially rewarding in the short term too.
Hussein El Zein is a Middle East legal recruiter at Taylor Root who spends his time between the London and Dubai offices.